have2laugh's Story

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havetolaugh

"My name is Megan and I was diagnosed with DCIS at 43 in January 2014. In December of 2013 I had my first MRI on the advice of the radiologist due to dense breasts and strong family history. I did not have a follow up meeting with my OB/GYN but was reassured when a month passed and I didn't hear anything regarding these results. I assumed the results were negative. I was shocked to get a call from the radiology practice regarding scheduling my biopsy. My reply: 'And I am having a biopsy for what?!' My results were BI-RADS 4 and although a call had been placed that day to my OB, she had assumed the radiologist spoke to me. As an RN, I should have followed up sooner and take ownership of that. Now I know the office policy and I pick up my dictated report 7 days after any testing.

"My family history includes two sisters diagnosed with IDC at age 44 and 45. We are a family of five girls, three of which have been touched with breast cancer. We are all BRCA negative and I am hoping to finally get approval for more advanced genetic testing in May. I recently left a job I loved to come back to my previous employer -- a larger hospital system which includes the regional cancer center in my area. It is a shame to have to switch jobs for insurance reasons but it is the reality of so many people in this country. I think it is reprehensible that those of us with strong histories are denied coverage for more extensive genetic testing beyond BRCA.

"My sisters are all very supportive. We are spread out from Vermont, New Jersey, and Florida so several of my other sisters were there more for our first sister diagnosed who certainly had a more difficult time enduring chemo and a unilateral mastectomy w TRAM flap. My second sister was diagnosed earlier and had a quick recovery with one surgery and radiation. She literally had pink skin the last week of radiation -- otherwise very little side effects. I originally leaned toward bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction having felt I dodged the invasive bullet but I was persuaded to try breast conservation. I also have a history of cardiomyopathy so left-sided radiation scared me but I was cleared for this treatment and have [a] follow up with [my] cardiologist in a few weeks.

"I went into this a little naïve -- thinking I only had DCIS, so this should be a piece of cake. Did not turn out as planned as DCIS was large multifocal area. After second surgery, a quadrantectomy, I still was left with two opposite borders less than 1mm from the edge. Meeting criteria for clear, as not touching edges, I continued on to 33 radiation sessions. I had a difficult time with radiation burns. Unfortunately, I also have truncal lymphedema in this breast which I am learning to deal with and still hope may lesson in the next year. So a lower diagnosis doesn't always mean an easier course. I have had great support from my sisters but am often surprised at the number of people who make remarks like, 'You don't really have cancer,' or question your course of treatment. I never recall either of my sister's having to justify their treatment plans. I am still monitored with mammo and MRI every six months as something in [my] other breast and surgical breast still has evolving changes they are watching. I am monitored more frequently than my sisters were.

"I have two daughters and each of my sisters affected have two daughters. Our hope for this next generation would be to avoid going through any treatments. Hopefully genetic testing will uncover more ways to modify our children's risk through lifestyle or even gene therapy. Many of my friends were surprised how matter-of-fact I felt at my time of diagnosis. I knew I was at increased risk and I was not surprised. For some families breast cancer and other illnesses are just a fact of life. For my youngest she not only inherits my family history but my husband's as well. His mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer at 39 and passed away at 43 -- the same age I was diagnosed. Our journey brought up some unresolved issues for him but ultimately strengthened our bond. I am humbled by what other women have endured and I truly hope my girls will be the generation that avoids this illness all together. I hope something can be learned by sharing our stories."

-- havetolaugh, shared a diagnosis with two sisters

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